Consonant mutation

Consonant mutation is change in a consonant in a word according to its morphological or syntactic environment.

Mutation occurs in languages around the world. A prototypical example of consonant mutation is the initial consonant mutation of all modern Celtic languages. Initial consonant mutation is also found in Indonesian or Malay, in Southern Paiute and in several West African languages such as Fula. The Nilotic language Dholuo, spoken in Kenya, shows mutation of stem-final consonants, as does English to a small extent. Mutation of initial, medial and final consonants is found in Modern Hebrew. Also, Japanese exhibits word medial consonant mutation involving voicing, rendaku, in many compounds.

Similar sound changes

Initial consonant mutation must not be confused with sandhi, which can refer to word-initial alternations triggered by their phonological environment, unlike mutations, which are triggered by their morphosyntactic environment. Some examples of word-initial sandhi are listed below.

  • Spanish: [b, d, ɡ], occurring after nasals and pause, alternate with [β, ð, ɣ], occurring after vowels and liquid consonants. Example: un [b]arco 'a boat', mi [β]arco 'my boat'. This also occurs in Hebrew (as begedkefet, an acronym for the consonants this affects) Aramaic and Tamil.
  • Scottish Gaelic: in some dialects, stops in stressed syllables are voiced after nasals, e.g. [aht] 'a cat', [əŋ ɡaht] 'the cat'.

Sandhi effects like these (or other phonological processes) are usually the historical origin of morphosyntactically triggered mutation. For example, the English fricative mutation described above originates in an allophonic alternation of Old English, where a voiced fricative occurred between vowels (or other voiced consonants), and a voiceless one occurred initially or finally, and also when adjacent to voiceless consonants. Old English infinitives ended in -(i)an and plural nouns (of one very common declension class) ended in -as. Thus, hūs 'a house' had [s], while hūsas 'houses' and hūsian 'to house' had [z]. After most endings were lost in English, and the contrast between voiced and voiceless fricatives phonemicized (largely due to the influx of French loanwords), the alternation was morphologized.



In Old English, velar stops were palatalized in certain cases and not in others. This resulted in some alternations. Many of these have been levelled, but traces occur in some word doublets such as ditch /dɪ/ and dike /daɪk/.

In the past tense of certain verbs, English also retains traces of several ancient sound developments such as *kt > *xt and *ŋx > *x; many of these have been further complicated following the loss of /x/ in the Middle English period.

  • seek /siːk/ : sought /sɔːt/
  • think /θɪŋk/ : thought /θɔːt/

The pair teach /tiːt͡ʃ/ : taught /tɔːt/ has a combination of both this and palatalization.

A second palatalization, called yod-coalescence, occurs in loanwords from Latin. One subtype affects the sibilant consonants: earlier /sj/ and /zj/ were palatalized, leading to an alternation between alveolar /s z/ and postalveolar /ʃ ʒ/.

  • confess /kənˈfɛs/ : confession /kənˈfɛʃən/
  • fuse /fjuːz/ : fusion /ˈfjuːʒən/

Another, unproductive layer results from the Vulgar Latin palatalization of velar stops before front vowels, and is thus imported from the Romance languages. Here /k ɡ/ alternate with /s dʒ/.

  • induce /ɪnˈdjuːs/ : induction /inˈdʌkʃən/
  • magic /ˈmæɪk/ : magus /meɪɡəs/

A combination of inherited and loaned alternation also occurs: an alternation pattern *t : *sj was brought over in Latinate loanwords, which in English was then turned into an alternation between /t/ and /ʃ/.

  • act /ækt/ : action /ˈækʃən/

Celtic languages

The Celtic languages are well-known for their initial consonant mutations.[1][2] The individual languages vary on the number of mutations available: Scottish Gaelic has one, Irish and Manx have two, Welsh has three (not counting mixed mutations) and Cornish and Breton have four (counting mixed mutations). Cornish and Breton have so-called mixed mutations, where a trigger causes one mutation to some sounds and another to other sounds. Welsh also has a mixed mutation (triggered by na, ni, and oni). The languages vary on the environments for the mutations, though some generalizations can be made. In all the languages, feminine singular nouns are mutated after the definite article, and adjectives are mutated after feminine singular nouns. In most of the languages, the possessive determiners trigger various mutations. Following are some examples from Breton, Irish, Scottish Gaelic, and Welsh:

Breton Welsh Irish Scottish Gaelic Gloss
gwreg gwraig bean bean* woman/wife
bras mawr mór mòr big
ar wreg vras y wraig fawr an bhean mhór a' bhean mhòr the big woman
kazh cath cat cat cat
e gazh ei gath a chat a chat his cat
he c'hazh ei chath a cat a cat her cat
o c'hazh eu cath a gcat an cat their cat

Older textbooks on Gaelic sometimes refer to the c → ch mutation as "aspiration", but it is not aspiration in the sense of the word used by modern phoneticians, and linguists prefer to speak of lenition here.

Historically, the Celtic initial mutations originated from progressive assimilation and sandhi phenomena between adjacent words. For example, the mutating effect of the conjunction a 'and' is due to the fact that it used to have the form *ak, and the final consonant influenced the following sounds.[3]

For details see the articles on the individual languages:


In Russian, consonant mutation and alternations are a very common phenomenon during word formation, conjugation and in comparative adjectives.

The most common classes of mutations are the alternation between velar and postalveolar consonants:

Other common mutations are:

  • т /t/ч /tɕ/, д /d/ж /ʐ/
  • з /z/ж /ʐ/, с /s/ш /ʂ/, ц /ts/ч /tɕ/
  • ск /sk/щ /ɕː/: плеск → плещет "splash" / "(he) splashes", ст /st/щ /ɕː/: свистеть → свищу "to whistle" / "I whistle"


Modern Hebrew shows a limited set of mutation alternations, involving spirantization only.[4] The consonants affected may be stem-initial, stem-medial, or stem-final.

Radical Spirantized
p f
k x
b v
These alternations occur in verbs:
 • בוא ← תבוא /bo/ → /taˈvo/ ("come" (imperative) → "you will come"),
 • שבר ← נשבר /ʃaˈvaʁ/ → /niʃˈbaʁ/ ("broke" (transitive) → "broke" (intransitive),
 • כתב ← יכתוב /kaˈtav/ → /jiχˈtov/ ("he wrote" → "he will write"),
 • זכר ← יזכור /zaˈχaʁ/ → /jizˈkoʁ/ ("he remembered" → "he will remember"),
 • פנית ← לפנות /paˈnit/ → /lifˈnot/ ("you (f.) turned" → "to turn"),
 • שפטת ← לשפוט /ʃaˈfatet/ → /liʃˈpot/ ("you (f.) judged" → "to judge "),
or in nouns:
 • ערב ← ערביים /ˈeʁev/ → /aʁˈbajim/ ("evening" → "twilight"),
 • מלך ← מלכה /ˈmeleχ/ → /malˈka/ ("king" → "queen"),
 • אלף ← אלפית /ˈelef/ → /alˈpit/ ("a thousand" → "a thousandth"),

however, in Modern Hebrew, stop and fricative variants of ב‏, כ and פ are sometimes distinct phonemes, compare e.g.:

 • אִפֵּר – אִפֵר /iˈpeʁ//iˈfeʁ/ ("applied make up" – "tipped ash"),
 • פִּסְפֵּס – פִסְפֵס /pisˈpes//fisˈfes/ ("striped" – "missed"),
 • הִתְחַבֵּר – הִתְחַבֵר /hitχaˈbeʁ//hitχaˈveʁ/ ("connected" – "made friends (with)"),
 • הִשְׁתַּבֵּץ – הִשְׁתַּבֵץ /hiʃtaˈbets//hiʃtaˈvets/ ("got integrated" – "was shocked"),

For a more in depth discussion of this phenomenon, see Begadkefat.


Rendaku (meaning sequential voicing) is a mutation of the initial consonant of a non-initial component in a Japanese compound word.

Some compounds exhibiting rendaku:

  • nigiri + sushi → nigirizushi ("grip (with the hand)" + "sushi" → "hand-shaped sushi")
  • nigori + sake → nigorizake ("muddy" + "rice wine" → "unfiltered sake")

Uralic languages

Word-medial consonant mutation is found in several Uralic languages, where it goes by the traditional name of consonant gradation. Gradation is pervasive especially in the Samic and Finnic branches.

Burmese language

The Burmese language exhibits consonant mutation, involving voicing in many compound words.

The primary type of consonant mutation is when two syllables are joined to form a compound word, the initial consonant of the second syllable becomes voiced. This shift occurs in the following phones:

  • /kʰ, k//ɡ/
  • /tɕʰ, tɕ//dʑ/
  • /sʰ, s//z/
  • /tʰ, t//d/
  • /pʰ, p//b/

Examples of this type include:

sʰéɪ (ဆေး) + á̃ (ခန်း) > sʰéɪ ɡá̃ ("medicine" + "room" → "clinic")

The second type of consonant mutation occurs when the phoneme /dʑ/, following the nasalized final /ɴ/, can become a /j/ sound in compound words.

Examples of this type include:

"blouse" (အင်္ကျီ angkyi) can be pronounced /èɪɴí/ or /èɪɴjí/.

The third type of consonant mutation occurs when phonemes /p, pʰ, b, t, tʰ, d/, following the nasalized final /ɴ/, can become /m/ in compound words. Examples include:

tàɪɴ (တိုင်) + pɪ̀ɴ (ပင်) > tàɪɴ mɪ̀ɴ (တိုင်ပင်) ("to consult")
táʊɴ (တောင်း) + pàɴ (ပန်) > táʊɴ màɴ ("to apologize")
lèi jɪ̀ɴ (လေယာဉ်) + pjàɴ (ပျံ) > lèɪɴ mjàɴ ("airplane")

Central Vanuatu languages

Mutation of the initial consonant of verbs is a characteristic feature of many Austronesian languages spoken in central Vanuatu.

For example, in Raga language:

nan vano "I went"
nam bano "I go"

These patterns of mutations probably arose when a nasal prefix, used to indicate realis mood, became combined with the initial consonant of the verb.[5] The possible ancestral pattern of mutation, and its descendants in some modern Central Vanuatu languages, are shown below:

Proto-Central Vanuatu *k > *ŋk *r > *nr *p > *mp
Raga (Pentecost) x > ŋg t > d v / vw > b / bw
northern Apma (Pentecost) k > ŋg t > d v / w > b / bw
southern Apma (Pentecost) v / w > b / bw
Ske (Pentecost) z > d v / vw > b / bw
Lonwolwol (Ambrym) r > rV ∅ > bV
Southeast Ambrym x / h / ∅ > g t > d v / h > b
northern Paama ∅ > k t > r
central/southern Paama k / ∅ > g / ŋ t / r > d
Nāti (Malekula) k / ʔ > ŋk t / r > nt / ntr v / w > mp / mpw
Maii (Epi) t > d v > b
Lewo (Epi) v / w > p / pw
Lamenu (Epi) ∅ > p
Bierebo (Epi) k > ŋk t / c > nd / nj v / w > p / pw
Baki (Epi) c > s v > mb
Bieria (Epi) t > nd v > mb
Nakanamanga (Efaté-Shepherds) k > ŋ r > t v / w > p / pw
Namakir (Shepherds) k > ŋ t / r > d v / w > b


The Dholuo language (one of the Luo languages) shows alternations between voiced and voiceless states of the final consonant of a noun stem.[6] In the construct state (the form that means 'hill of', 'stick of', etc.) the voicing of the final consonant is switched from the absolute state. (There are also often vowel alternations that are independent of consonant mutation.)

  • ɡɔt 'hill' (abs.), god (const.)
  • θ 'stick' (abs.), luð (const.)
  • do 'appearance' (abs.), kit (const.)
  • tʃoɡo 'bone' (abs.), tʃok (const.)
  • buk 'book' (abs.), bug (const.)
  • kɪtabu 'book' (abs.), kɪtap (const.)


Consonant mutation is a prominent feature of the Fula language. The Gombe dialect spoken in Nigeria, for example, shows mutation triggered by declension class.[7] The mutation grades are fortition and prenasalization:

Radical Fortition Prenasalization
f p p
s ʃ ʃ
h k k
w b mb
r d nd
j , ɡ ɲdʒ, ŋɡ
ɣ ɡ ŋɡ

For example, the stems rim- 'free man' and [ɣim-] 'person' have the following forms:

  • [rimɓe] (class 2), dimo (class 1), ndimon (class 6)
  • [ɣimɓe] (class 2), gimɗo (class 1), ŋgimkon (class 6)

Indonesian and Malay

The active form of a multisyllabic verb with an initial stop consonant or fricative consonant is formed by prefixing the verb stem with meN-, in which N stands for a nasal sharing the same place of articulation as the initial consonant.

  • garuk → menggaruk (= to scratch), hitung → menghitung (= to count),
  • beri → memberi (= to give), fitnah → memfitnah (= to accuse falsely),
  • cari → mencari (= to search), dapat → mendapat (= to obtain), *jangkau → menjangkau (= to reach)

If the initial consonant is an unvoiced stop or s, it disappears, leaving only the nasal in its place.

  • kandung → mengandung (= to contain or to be pregnant),
  • putih → memutih (= to turn white),
  • satu → menyatu (= to become one / to unite),
  • tulis → menulis (= to write).

Applied to verbs starting with a vowel, the nasal is realized as ng ([ŋ]).

Monosyllabic verbs add an epenthetic vowel before prefixing, producing the prefix menge-.

  • bor (= boring tool / drill) → mengebor (= to make a hole with drill).

Verbs starting with a nasal or approximant consonant do not add the mutant nasal at all, just me-.[8]

The colloquial version lose me- prefix and instead tends to use nasalization process.[9]

  • tanya → menanya → nanya
  • pikir → memikir → mikir
  • merepotkan → ng(e)repotin


Additional info in Latvian

Mutation Example
b→bj gulbis→gulbja
c→č lācis→lāča
d→ž briedis→brieža
dz→dž dadzis→dadža
g→dz lūgt→lūdzu
k→c liekt→liecu
l→ļ sīlis→sīļa
m→mj zeme→zemju
n→ņ zirnis→zirņa
p→pj krupis→krupja
r→r teteris→tetera
s→š lasis→laša
t→š vācietis→vācieša
v→vj cirvis→cirvja
z→ž vēzis→vēža

Also two consonants can mutate as a group.

Mutation Example
kst→kš pāksts→pākšu
ln→ļņ cilnis→ciļņa
sl→šļ kāpslis→kāpšļa
sn→šņ atkusnis→atkušņa
zl→žļ zizlis→zižļa
zn→žņ zvaigzne→zvaigžņu

Ute language

In the Ute language, also called Southern Paiute, there are three consonant mutations, which are triggered by different word-stems.[10] The mutations are Spirantization, Gemination, and Prenasalization:

Radical Spirantization Gemination Prenasalization
p v pp mp
t r tt nt
k ɣ kk ŋk
ɣʷ kkʷ ŋkʷ
ts   tts nts
s   ss  
m ŋkʷ mm mm
n   nn nn

For example, the absolutive suffix -pi appears in different forms, according to which noun stem it is suffixed to:

  • movi-ppi 'nose'
  • sappI-vi 'belly'
  • aŋo-mpi 'tongue'

Artificial languages


The Sindarin language created by J. R. R. Tolkien has mutation patterns inspired by those of Welsh. The first letter of a noun usually undergoes mutation when the noun follows a closely associated word such as an article or preposition. Thus, we get certh, rune, and i gerth, the rune. Also, second elements of compounds and direct objects of verbs undergo mutation.


The old version of the philosophical Ithkuil language features a complex mutation pattern, with every root consonant having eight possible mutations of its base form. Idiosyncratically, these are all consonant clusters rather than single consonants. Its phonologically simpler successor Ilaksh retains the feature as well, though reduces the grades to three. In the 2011 version, however, there is one root consonant, which does not mutate.

Further reading

  • Grijzenhout, Janet. 2011. 'Consonant Mutation' in Marc van Oostendorp, Colin J. Ewen, Elizabeth Hume and Keren Rice (eds.) The Blackwell Companion to Phonology (Oxford: Blackwell) III: 1537-1558.
  • Zimmer, Stefan. The Celtic Mutations: some typological comparisons. A Companion in Linguistics, a Festschrift for Anders Ahlqvist, ed. B. Smelik, R. Hofman, C. Hamans, D. Cram. Nijmegen: de Keltische Draak / Münster: Nodus 2004, 127-140.

See also


  1. ^ Ball, M. J.; N. Müller (1992). Mutation in Welsh. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-03165-6.
  2. ^ Fife, James; Gareth King (1998). "Celtic (Indo-European)". In Andrew Spencer and Arnold M. Zwicky (eds.), (ed.). The Handbook of Morphology. Oxford: Blackwell. pp. 477–99. ISBN 0-631-22694-X.
  3. ^ Ternes, Elmar. 1986. A Grammatical hierarchy of joining. In: Andersen, Henning. Sandhi phenomena in the languages of Europe. P.17-18
  4. ^ Glinert, Lewis (1989). The Grammar of Modern Hebrew. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  5. ^ Crowley T, 1991. Parallel Development and Shared Innovation: Some Developments in Central Vanuatu Inflectional Morphology. Oceanic Linguistics, Vol. 30, No. 2, pp. 179-222
  6. ^ Stafford, R. (1967). The Luo language. Nairobi: Longmans.
  7. ^ Arnott, D. W. (1970). The Nominal and Verbal Systems of Fula. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  8. ^ Examples adapted from Wikibooks:Indonesian prefix me
  9. ^ id:Bahasa gaul
  10. ^ Sapir, Edward (1930). "The Southern Paiute Language (Part I): Southern Paiute, a Shoshonean Language". Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 65: 1–296. doi:10.2307/20026309.
Atlantic languages

The Atlantic languages (or West Atlantic languages) of West Africa are an obsolete proposed major group of the Niger–Congo languages. They are those languages west of Kru which have the noun-class systems characteristic of the Niger–Congo family; in this they are distinguished from their Mande neighbours, which do not. The Atlantic languages are highly diverse and it is now generally accepted that they do not form a valid group. Linguists such as Dimmendahl, Blench, Hyman and Segerer classify them into three or more independent branches of Niger–Congo. The term "Atlantic languages" is kept as a geographic term of convenience.

The Atlantic languages are spoken along the Atlantic coast from Senegal to Liberia, though transhumant Fula speakers have spread eastward and are found in large numbers across the Sahel, from Senegal to Nigeria, Cameroon and Sudan. Wolof of Senegal and several of the Fula languages are the most populous Atlantic languages, with several million speakers each; other significant members include Serer and the Jola dialect cluster of Senegal and Temne in Sierra Leone. The Senegambian languages exhibit consonant mutation, and most Atlantic languages have noun-class systems similar to those of the distantly related Bantu languages. Some languages are tonal, while others such as Wolof have pitch-accent systems. The basic word order tends to be SVO.

Consonant gradation

Consonant gradation is a type of consonant mutation found in some Uralic languages, more specifically in the Finnic, Samic and Samoyedic branches. It originally arose as an allophonic alternation between open and closed syllables, but has become grammaticalised due to changes in the syllable structure of the languages affected.

Cornish grammar

Cornish grammar is the grammar of the Cornish language (Kernowek), an insular Celtic language closely related to Breton and Welsh and, to a lesser extent, to Irish, Manx and Scottish Gaelic. It was the main medium of communication of the Cornish people for much of their history until the 17th century, when a language shift occurred in favour of English.

A revival, however, started in 1904, with the publication of A Handbook of the Cornish Language, by Henry Jenner, and since then there has been a growing interest in the language.

David J. Peterson

David Joshua Peterson (born January 20, 1981) is an American language creator, writer, and artist, who has constructed languages for television and movies such as Thor: The Dark World and Doctor Strange and the Dothraki and Valyrian languages for the television series Game of Thrones.


Debuccalization is a sound change in which an oral consonant loses its original place of articulation and moves it to the glottis (usually [h], [ɦ], or [ʔ]). The pronunciation of a consonant as [h] is sometimes called aspiration but in phonetics, aspiration is the burst of air accompanying a stop. The word comes from Latin bucca, meaning "cheek" or "mouth".

Debuccalization is usually seen as a sub-type of lenition, often defined as a consonant mutation involving the weakening of a consonant by progressive shifts in pronunciation.

Debuccalization processes occur in many different types of environments such as the following:

word-initially, as in Kannada

word-finally, as in Burmese

intervocalically, as in a number of English varieties (e.g. litter [ˈlɪʔə])

Double-marking language

A double-marking language is one in which the grammatical marks showing relations between different constituents of a phrase tend to be placed on both the heads (or nuclei) of the phrase in question, and on the modifiers or dependents. Pervasive double-marking is rather rare, but instances of double-marking occur in many languages.

For example, in Turkish, in a genitive construction involving two definite nouns, both the possessor and the possessed are marked, the former with a suffix marking the possessor (and corresponding to a possessive adjective in English) and the latter in the genitive case. For example, 'brother' is kardeş, and 'dog' is köpek, but 'brother's dog' is kardeşin köpeği. (The consonant change is part of a regular consonant mutation.)

Another example is a language in which endings that mark gender or case are used to indicate the role of both nouns and their associated modifiers (such as adjectives) in a sentence (such as Russian and Spanish) or in which case endings are supplemented by verb endings marking the subject, direct object and/or indirect object of a sentence.

Proto-Indo-European had double-marking in both verb phrases (verbs were marked for person and number, nominals for case) and noun-adjective phrases (both marked with the same case-and-number endings) but not in possessive phrases (only the dependent was marked).


Fortition, also known as strengthening, is a consonantal change that increases the degree of stricture. It's the opposite of the more common lenition. For example, a fricative or an approximant may become a stop (i.e. [v] becomes [b] or [r] becomes [d]). Although not as typical of sound change as lenition, fortition may occur in prominent positions, such as at the beginning of a word or stressed syllable; as an effect of reducing markedness; or due to morphological leveling.

Fula language

Fula , also known as Fulani or Fulah (Fula: Fulfulde, Pulaar, Pular; French: Peul), is a language spoken as a set of various dialects in a continuum that stretches across some 20 countries in West and Central Africa. Along with other related languages such as Serer and Wolof, it belongs to the Senegambian branch within the Niger–Congo languages, which does not have tones, unlike most other Niger–Congo languages. More broadly, it belongs to the Atlantic geographic grouping within Niger–Congo. It is spoken as a first language by the Fula people ("Fulani", Fula: Fulɓe) from the Senegambia region and Guinea to Cameroon, Nigeria, and Sudan and by related groups such as the Toucouleur people in the Senegal River Valley. It is also spoken as a second language by various peoples in the region, such as the Kirdi of northern Cameroon and northeastern Nigeria.


Güey (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈwei]; also spelled guey, wey or we) is a word in colloquial Mexican Spanish which is commonly used to refer to any person without using their name. Though more often, and originally only applied to males, it can be used equally for males and females; although women would more commonly use another slang word to refer to another unnamed female person, such as "chava" (young woman) or "vieja" (old lady). It is used roughly the same way "dude" is used in modern American English. It is derived from the term buey, which refers to an ox, used for meat, sacrifice, or labor. It was used to insult men as cheated husbands/boyfriends/cuckolds because oxen are slow, castrated bulls. Over time, the initial /b/ underwent a consonant mutation to a /g/, often elided; resulting in the modern wey. The word can be used as an insult, like "fool", although, due to its extremely high frequency of use in a multitude of contexts, it has lost much of its offensive character, becoming a colloquialism.

Ibanag language

The Ibanag language (also Ybanag or Ibanak) is spoken by up to 500,000 speakers, most particularly by the Ibanag people, in the Philippines, in the northeastern provinces of Isabela and Cagayan, especially in Tuguegarao, Solana, Abulug, Cabagan, and Ilagan and with overseas immigrants in countries located in the Middle East, United Kingdom and the United States. Most of the speakers can also speak Ilocano, the lingua franca of northern Luzon island. The name Ibanag comes from the prefix "I" which means "people of", and "bannag", meaning river. It is closely related to Gaddang, Itawis, Agta, Atta, Yogad, Isneg, and Malaweg.


In linguistics, lenition is a sound change that alters consonants, making them more sonorous. The word lenition itself means "softening" or "weakening" (from Latin lenis "weak"). Lenition can happen both synchronically (within a language at a particular point in time) and diachronically (as a language changes over time). Lenition can involve such changes as making a consonant more sonorous, causing a consonant to lose its place of articulation (a phenomenon called debuccalization, which turns a consonant into a glottal consonant like [h] or [ʔ]), or even causing a consonant to disappear entirely.

An example of synchronic lenition in American English is found in flapping in some dialects: the /t/ of a word like wait [weɪt] becomes the more sonorous [ɾ] in the related form waiting [ˈweɪɾɪŋ]. Some dialects of Spanish show debuccalization of /s/ to [h] at the end of a syllable, so that a word like estamos "we are" is pronounced [ehˈtamoh]. An example of diachronic lenition can be found in the Romance languages, where the /t/ of Latin patrem ("father", accusative) becomes [d] in Italian padre and [ð̞] in Spanish padre, while in Catalan pare, French père and Portuguese pai it has disappeared completely. Along with assimilation, lenition is one of the primary sources of phonological change of languages.

In some languages, lenition has been grammaticalized into a consonant mutation, which means it is no longer triggered by its phonological environment but is now governed by its syntactic or morphological environment. For example, in Welsh, the word cath "cat" begins with the sound /k/, but after the definite article y, the /k/ changes to [ɡ]: "the cat" in Welsh is y gath. This was historically due to intervocalic lenition, but in the plural, lenition does not happen, so "the cats" is y cathod, not *y gathod. The change of /k/ to [ɡ] in y gath is thus caused by the syntax of the phrase, not by the phonological position of the consonant /k/.

The opposite of lenition, fortition, a sound change that makes a consonant "stronger", is less common.

Prothesis (linguistics)

In linguistics, prothesis (; from post-classical Latin based on Ancient Greek: πρόθεσις próthesis 'placing before'), or less commonly prosthesis (from Ancient Greek πρόσθεσις prósthesis 'addition') is the addition of a sound or syllable at the beginning of a word without changing the word's meaning or the rest of its structure. A vowel or consonant added by prothesis is called prothetic or prosthetic.

Prothesis is different from the adding of a prefix, which changes the meaning of a word.

Prothesis is a metaplasm, a change in spelling or pronunciation. The opposite process, the loss of a sound from the beginning of a word, is called apheresis or aphesis.


Sandhi (; Sanskrit: संधि saṃdhí [sɐndʱɪ], "joining") is a cover term for a wide variety of sound changes that occur at morpheme or word boundaries. Examples include fusion of sounds across word boundaries and the alteration of one sound depending on nearby sounds or the grammatical function of the adjacent words. Sandhi belongs to morphophonology.

Sandhi occurs in many languages, particularly in the phonology of Indian languages (especially Tamil, Sanskrit, Telugu, Marathi, Hindi, Pali, Kannada, Bengali, Assamese, Malayalam), as well as in some North Germanic languages.

Senegambian languages

The Senegambian or Northern (West) Atlantic languages are a branch of Niger–Congo languages centered on Senegal (and Senegambia), with most languages spoken there and in neighboring southern Mauritania, Guinea-Bissau, and Guinea. The transhumant Fula, however, have spread with their languages from Senegal across the western and central Sahel. The most populous unitary language is Wolof, the national language of Senegal, with four million native speakers and millions more second-language users. There are perhaps 13 million speakers of the various varieties of Fula, and over a million speakers of Serer.

Serer language

Serer (Serer: Seereer, pronuncation: [seːreːr]) is a language of the Senegambian branch of Niger–Congo spoken by 1.2 million people in Senegal and 30,000 in the Gambia. It is the principal language of the Serer people.


A synalepha or synaloepha is the merging of two syllables into one, especially when it causes two words to be pronounced as one.

The original meaning in Ancient Greek is more general than modern usage and includes coalescence of vowels within a word. Similarly, synalepha most often refers to elision (as in English contraction), but it can also refer to coalescence by other metaplasms: synizesis, synaeresis or crasis.


Tanet or Tannet is a surname. The French surname Tanet could be toponymic or a sobriquet in origin. Spelling variations of this family name include: Tanat, Tannat, Tanet, Tanett, Tanatt, Tannatt, or even Danet due to apophony, and many more. In the case of 'Tanet' several interpretations are possible. The surname can be traced back to the Old Breton "tanet" meaning "aflame", that could be a nickname for a nervous or irritated trait or as a corruption of the Common Celtic 'tan-arth' "high fire", derived from the place where the original bearer once resided, suggesting in this case "one who dwelt on the beacon or lighthouse".

Tanet could also be a corruption of the toponymic tanouët meaning oak grove (tannoed, which underwent a consonant mutation to tann-eto in Common Brittonic), and has the same root as Gaulish tanno- (oak tree), Latin tannum (oak bark) used in the tanning of leather, Old High German tanna (oak, fir, akin) from proto-Germanic tan, (needle, what sticks out) and Breton tann (oak tree). In Old French speaking regions it also meant brown cloth or the color of the tan and designated the manufacturer.

This surname is now spread all over France with concentrations in Brittany and Aquitaine, though the Aquitanian origin may differ. A toponymic term tannet is also found in Savoie, Switzerland, Alpes-Maritimes: tanne, tune, tannaz, taverno or tuna (cave, hole, den or vault). Tanné is also commonly found in Finistère.

A similar surname is also found in Irish sept of Ó Tanaidhe (Tanny, Tannay, Tanney, Tanie, Taney), part of the Clan Drugain (Tanaide, Tanaidhe, Tanaí (TAWN-ee/TAHN ee) meaning slender, subtle.

Welsh phonology

The phonology of Welsh is characterised by a number of sounds that do not occur in English and are rare in European languages, such as the voiceless alveolar lateral fricative [ɬ] and several voiceless sonorants (nasals and liquids), some of which result from consonant mutation. Stress usually falls on the penultimate syllable in polysyllabic words, while the word-final unstressed syllable receives a higher pitch than the stressed syllable.

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